When a magician called Sachin Tendulkar enchanted South Africa at the 2011 World Cup
For over a quarter of a century, a lot of praise has been showered upon Sachin Tendulkar. People have called him the ‘little master’, ‘master blaster’, ‘the greatest of all time’; some have even put him on the highest pedestal possibleand gone to the extent of calling him ‘God’.
But out of the many adjectives that we have used to describe Tendulkar, the one that fits perfectly is 'magician'.
Tendulkar has time and again cast a spell on all those watching him bat. He has taken us to peaks that we have never been to before, and he has been a conjuror who has held all of us captive.
Watching Tendulkar bat can almost turn into a spiritual experience. “When you watch Tendulkar at his best, the ego dies,” wrote the great Nirmal Shekar.
Watch Tendulkar at his thrilling best, and it will slowly dawn upon you that you are witnessing something that you have never witnessed before. We almost forget our troubles as we watch him bat, as he takes us on an ethereal journey.
On the 12th of March 2011, Tendulkar weaved his magic on the South Africans in the 2011 World Cup with an absolutely riveting display of batsmanship. He was almost 38 years old, had withstood the harsh tribulations of international cricket for over 22 years, but on that day, he deluded all of us into believing that Time was nothing but a mere illusion.
India won the toss and chose to bat first on a bright and sunny afternoon. Tendulkar got off the mark with a single to mid-off.
The master scored his first boundary off the 9th ball he faced. Jacques Kallis pitched the ball short, and Tendulkar rocked onto the back foot and pulled him past fine leg.
Tendulakr then played two gorgeous shots in the 8th over bowled by Morne Morkel. First, he hit an uppish drive bisecting cover and extra cover with the precision of a surgeon. And then, on the very next ball, he played the shot of the match.
Morkel bowled a full delivery on middle stump, and Tendulkar transferred his weight onto the front foot, and just punched the ball straight down the ground. The timing was so good that the ball raced to the boundary.
In the 10th over, Dale Steyn fired in a short delivery at 141.3 Kmph. Tendulkar rocked onto the back foot in a flash and pulled him over deep square leg for his first six.
Kallis then tried to outwit Tendulkar by bowling a slower delivery, but the master picked it early, and flicked the ball past mid-on for a boundary.
Tendulkar got to his 94th fifty in ODI cricket with a flick off Robin Peterson, and the entire crowd was on its feet to applaud the master batsman.
On the 5th ball of the 15th over, JP Duminy tossed the ball on leg stump. Tendulkar waltzed down the wicket with the elegance of a ballet dancer and hoisted him over long on for a six.
Then, Johan Botha bowled a ball on middle stump, so Tendulkar advanced down the wicket, took the ball on the full, opened the face of his bat, and drove him past deep cover for a boundary. It was a master at work.
Tendulkar moved into the 90s with a pull off Faf Du Plessis, and as the diminutive maestro was nearing the coveted three figure mark, all the people in the stadium were at the edge of their seats.
The ‘little master’ got to his 48th hundred in ODI cricket with a single to deep cover off Morne Morkel, and each and every soul in the stadium erupted in unbridled joy.
It was Tendulkar’s 6th hundred in World Cups, the most by any batsman till today.
Then, when Tendulkar was batting on 111, he tried to cut the ball past point, but hit it straight to Duminy, and a magnificent innings from the master drew to a close.
But while the knock was cut short, the memory of it will linger on forever. History will look back on the 12th of March as the day when Tendulkar bewitched the South Africans and all those who saw him bat with an absolutely enchanting innings.